Writers' Roundtable (cont.)
Ian Thomsen: The Jazz will have other questions to answer at the same time. Mehmet Okur and Kyle Korver can also become free agents, so they'll have to mix and match a lot of movable parts. My guess is they'll retain Millsap at the lesser salary and see what they can get for Boozer in a sign-and-trade - or let him walk entirely.
Jack McCallum: The popular answer here would be Millsap since he is an underrated warrior and Boozer has been injury-prone and known for being a little whiny. But I'm going with Boozer. He's a 20-point interior scorer who opens up the defense for your outside shooters; I don't know if Millsap will ever give you that. And while Millsap hits the boards with requisite vigor, don't forget that Boozer is a double-double guy, too.
Chris Mannix: Millsap. He's younger (23 to Boozer's 27) and more durable (Millsap played all 82 games his first two seasons before missing some time this season; Boozer played 81 games twice in his seven-year career but also has seasons of 33 and 51 games and is sidelined a huge chunk of this season with knee and quad injuries). Though not the perimeter scorer Boozer is, Millsap has that potential. Millsap is also likely to be significantly cheaper to re-sign, giving GM Kevin O'Connor some wiggle room to acquire valuable role players (a backup point guard wouldn't hurt) or take a shot at a big-ticket player down the road.
Steve Aschburner: Millsap, no question. Boozer's nefarious move out of Cleveland hasn't been forgotten, and his injury history to this point doesn't suggest any looming durability, whether he detours through Lourdes or not. Millsap isn't nearly the scorer, on a consistent basis, that Boozer is, but he plays his role more completely, is 3 ½ years younger and can grow his game more going forward.
4. Put on your GM hat. Would you sign Darius Miles if the main purpose was to hurt the Blazers' financial flexibility?
Ian Thomsen: Of course! The goal in every trade is to help your team and stick it to the other team. The Blazers chose to sign Miles to his original six-year contract, and now they're being held accountable for all six years. What is unfair about that?
By threatening those who might try to hire Miles, the Blazers have succeeded in recasting him as a sympathetic figure and their organization as the villain. A larger audience will now be rooting for Miles to revive his career -- opposite the Blazers' wishes, I assure you.
When Blazers president Larry Miller informed rivals that it was their "fiduciary duty'' to not do harm to the Blazers' payroll by signing Miles, he was missing the larger point. By signing him to a 10-day contract and forcing the Blazers to pay a luxury tax this season, Miles' new team would ultimately receive a dividend of the Blazers' tax payment and thus realize an overall profit of close to $200,000. If I'm a rival GM, isn't it my "fiduciary duty'' to sign a player who could put $200,000 in my owner's pocket?
The Blazers have been alarmingly naive in all aspects of this Miles situation over the last year or more. They've been so caught up in their plan to take his salary off their books that they haven't been able to see the bigger picture. They need to take stock internally and figure out why no one in their organization was able to foresee the obvious fallout of Miller's threats and put a stop to it.
But there is a bigger picture for people like me, too: The Blazers have done a remarkable job of assembling their team over the last few years. They've made all of the right picks in the draft and they've so revived a dead franchise that the Rose Garden is now one of the most vibrant arenas in the league. This was a really stupid thing they did last week, but their overall body of work is admirable.
Jack McCallum: I believe that such an Auerbachian move would definitely be unwise in the long run. But if I honestly thought that Miles would become a player down the road -- I don't buy it but others do -- I wouldn't hesitate to sign him for a minute.
Chris Mannix: Let's see, the Blazers are young, talented and a threat to win a title in the next two or three years. And you're asking if I would pass on a chance to hurt them? I don't care if Miles is limping around; I'm signing him and playing him in the first garbage-time situation I can.
There is nothing unethical about it. This is a billion-dollar business. Why wouldn't a team do anything in its power to improve itself and/or hurt a rival? Besides, the Blazers caught a lucky break when an independent physician declared Miles medically unable to play last year. But now NBA coaches and front-office officials such as the Celtics' Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge and the Grizzlies' Marc Iavaroni and Chris Wallace say that Miles is OK to play. So why should the Blazers benefit when the doctor was clearly wrong?
Steve Aschburner: Absolutely. Last we looked, this was a competition, not a co-operative. Teams are expected to utilize whatever legitimate tools are available to a) hoist themselves in the standings and b) hold down their opponents. If you're going to sit idly by while the Trail Blazers stockpile 83 percent of the NBA's young talent, you might as well switch to the D-League. I wouldn't sweat the lawyers, either; while I don't even play an attorney on TV, it seems to me that Portland would have its hands full dealing with an insurance company trying to get back (or cease making) payments to Miles for a "career-ending injury" that really wasn't. Then there is Miles' right to make a living, which would be vehemently defended by the NBA players union, and what seemed to be an orchestration of collusion in not hiring an available free agent.
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